ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - Kurdish Transport Minister Mawlud Bawamurad on Sunday rejected rumors internet service would be used as leverage against Baghdad in response to recent punitive measures taken in retaliation to the Kurdistan Region's Sep. 25 referendum.
"Most people in Iraq are using internet services. It would be unfair and wrong to cut such a service to people because of political tensions with Baghdad," Bawamurad told Kurdistan 24, "The rumors are baseless."
Most internet cable services come from Turkey and go through the Kurdistan Region before reaching Iraq's other provinces. Cable internet is the most commonly used in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
“Cutting off internet services to the people of Iraq could be as influential as the dramatic increase in oil prices. People are quite dependent on having access to internet services, especially with the current political situation.”
He categorically declared no decision had been made by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to cut off internet services to Iraqi provinces, explaining that if there had been any cuts, they would be related to competition between companies in the country.
Most telecommunications service providers in Iraq are based out of the Kurdistan Region, such as Asia Cell and Korek which are the leading telecommunication firms with millions of clients across the country.
The Kurdish Minister also rejected rumors that some airlines had decided to resume flights to the Kurdistan Region, stating that without the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority's (ICAA) permission, no plane could fly to the Region.
Addressing the possibility of flights to both Erbil and Sulaimani airports resuming anytime soon, he noted that the flight ban had "no legal basis," but rather, was a "political decision against the people of the Kurdistan Region."
"The dispute requires a political solution. Applying political pressure at the expense of people’s lives is wrong and unethical,” he added.
Over 92 percent of people in the Kurdistan Region voted in favor of secession, with 72 percent turning out to vote.
Since Sep. 25, the Iraqi Federal Government and parliament have taken harsh measures against the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, including a flight ban, as punishment for the vote.
Kurdish officials continue to call for dialogue and negotiations to resolve the disputes peacefully instead of the use of threatening language and sanctions.
Editing by G.H. Renaud